Stitching together 'lab-on-a-chip' devices with cotton thread and sewing needles

Feb 18, 2010
Cotton thread, shown in this close-up image, provides a simple way to transport fluids for low-cost "lab-on-a-chip" tests for detecting disease and other purposes. Credit: Wei Shen

Scientists in Australia are reporting the first use of ordinary cotton thread and sewing needles to literally stitch together a microfluidic analytical device — microscopic technology that can transport fluids for medical tests and other purposes in a lab-on-a-chip. The chips shrink room-sized diagnostic testing equipment down to the size of a postage stamp, and promise revolutionary applications in medicine, environmental sensing, and other areas. Their study is in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, a monthly journal.

Wei Shen and colleagues note that the development of low-cost "" diagnostic tests has become an attractive area of research. Existing devices require etching microscopic channels onto slivers of silicon, glass, ceramics, or metal in a costly, complicated process. The scientists set out to find an alternative, and did so with cotton thread, which wicks fluids along its tiny fibers.

They stitched thread into paper to form microfluidic sensors capable of detecting and measuring substances released in the urine of patients with several human medical conditions. "The fabrication of thread-based microfluidic devices is simple and relatively low cost because it requires only sewing needles or household sewing machines," the report said. "Our results demonstrate that thread is a suitable material for fabricating microfluidic diagnostic devices for monitoring human health, environment and food safety, especially for the population in less-industrialized areas or remote regions."

Explore further: Nano-sized chip "sniffs out" explosives far better than trained dogs

More information: "Thread as a Versatile Material for Low-Cost Microfluidic Diagnostics", ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Make your own microfluidic device with new kit from U-M

Jul 24, 2008

A type of device called a "lab-on-a-chip" could bring a new generation of instant home tests for illnesses, food contaminants and toxic gases. But today these portable, efficient tools are often stuck in the lab themselves. ...

Print-and-Peel Method Creates Microfluidic Devices

Dec 04, 2006

Typically, researchers create microfluidic devices using the same lithographic techniques and tools used to fabricate computer chips. Lithography is expensive and slow, factors that could limit the ultimate utility of microfluidic ...

Music is the engine of new lab-on-a-chip device (w/ Video)

Jul 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Music, rather than electromechanical valves, can drive experimental samples through a lab-on-a-chip in a new system developed at the University of Michigan. This development could significantly simplify the ...

Microfluidic Device Tests Fluid Compatibility

Apr 14, 2006

The key to a great party is inviting guests who mix well and don't instill tension among their fellow revelers. The key to a great detergent, cosmetic, paint or other complex liquid product is pretty much the ...

Recommended for you

A new approach to creating organic zeolites

Jul 24, 2014

Yushan Yan, Distinguished Professor of Engineering at the University of Delaware, is known worldwide for using nanomaterials to solve problems in energy engineering, environmental sustainability and electronics.

User comments : 0